“It’s just like summer in Scotland, I’m used to it. This is nothing.” That was the reaction of a hardy – and possibly crazy – Scottish tourist interviewed by ABC News on Bondi Beach as Sydney was battered by a once-in-a decade storm.
More rain fell on some parts of NSW than in any other 24-hour period in a century. In the Hunter Valley, a major NSW tourist attraction, several people in one village died when homes were washed away.
In Sydney, floods brought road transport to a virtual standstill. The wider Sydney transport network was thrown into chaos, with some rail lines cut by landslides and falling trees, and stations flooded.
Reaching Sydney Airport by train wasn’t so easy either. An amazing time-lapse video showing flooding at Bardwell Park train station on the T2 Airport Line, shot by a Sydney Trains CCTV camera at the station and condensed down to 21 seconds, can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNFDVZPjI_U The rail line turns into a canal!
Elsewhere around Sydney, trees crashed down in national parks, with Lane Cove, Ku-ring-gai Chase, Sydney Harbour and Berowra Valley closed to the public. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is urging people to consider delaying trips.
The cruise ship Carnival Spirit finally managed to sail into Sydney Harbour yesterday so it could let passengers off. A quick video shot by a passenger showing the enormous waves can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuspQLhZm5U
One passenger, Athanasia Georgoudakis from Sydney, told the Sydney Morning Herald she would never cruise again.
“I was so scared, I was really, really scared. I was with my mum, she was a lot braver than me,” she told the paper.
Other passengers were bolder and some enjoyed the drama.
Initially it was thought the ship might have to spend another day or two at sea as the Port Authority of NSW closed several harbours to commercial shipping.
Carnival was working on revised itineraries and refunds as foul weather continued throughout yesterday.
As Carnival Spirit was stranded outside Sydney Heads in mountainous seas, the coast near Sydney was hit by colossal waves, one of which roared ashore at 3pm on Tuesday with a recorded maximum height of 14.9 metres.
Carnival Spirit was caught in the storm, ploughing through 10-metre swells.
Sydney Airport battled on through storms on Tuesday and Wednesday, but some international flights were diverted, while domestic delays extended up to an hour. The airport was operating normally this morning.
Around New South Wales, more than 200,000 homes and businesses were without power last night. Some suburbs also had water cut. Three hospitals were relying on back-up generators.
This morning, the Bureau of Meteorology said the worst of the storms were over but warned that flood peaks would still arrive today, despite rainfall easing across the state’s east coast. Most people were just delighted to see some sunlight and a bit of blue sky.
The New South Wales State Emergency Service received over 11,100 calls for help across six regions, with about 50 people rescued from floodwaters.
“We’re seeing a continuation of the wind, rain, flash flooding, and whilst it is still dangerous, the positive is that there is some easing.” NSW State Premier Mike Baird on Wednesday. “But we still have a lot to get through in the next 48 hours.”
He added that some of the worst hit locations would be declared natural disaster areas.
Tourists stayed in backpacker hostels playing video games and watching TV last night – or ventured out in torrential rain to visit local pubs. Any overseas tourist thinking of Sydney as a warm, sunny place where it seldom rains would have been in for a rude disappointment.
Written by : Peter Needham